Kenyan cycling develops with Asian photographer's focus

Mon Oct 1, 2012 7:33am EDT
 
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By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Fascinated by the notion of turning the world's most gifted long distance runners into kings of the saddle, Nicolas Leong packed up his life in Singapore and moved to Kenya's Rift Valley.

It mattered little to him that he knew nothing about the world of professional cycling, and barely more about the East African nation he was moving to.

The dream tantalized him relentlessly until finally he stepped on a plane. Now, six years on, the former commercial photographer says the structure is in place for a generation of champions to flourish.

"It was just an idea that wouldn't go away," Leong told Reuters as he reflected on a step some would call foolhardy and others courageous.

"All these Kenyans were winning marathons all over the world (and) I thought it would be really good if you gave them a bike, that was essentially the idea," he added, on a rare trip back to his homeland.

"They have more dominance in the marathon than anybody has dominated any other sport. The Brazilians are not as dominant in football as the Kenyans are running the marathon," he smiled.

Leong was, and remains, convinced the country synonymous with world class runners will produce the first black team to compete in the Tour de France.

With a long history of producing elite distance runners with stamina the envy of the world, Leong felt Kenya could spawn cyclists with the skills to suit the grueling demands of that sport.   Continued...

 
Kenyan Riders' team members ride at the foothills of the Col du Tourmalet mountain range in France June 28, 2012. Fascinated by the notion of turning the world's most gifted long distance runners into kings of the saddle, Nicholas Leong packed up his life in Singapore and moved to Kenya's Rift Valley. It mattered little to him that he knew nothing about the world of professional cycling, and barely more about the East African nation he was moving to. Leong was, and remains, convinced the country synonymous with world class runners will produce the first black team to compete in the Tour de France. REUTERS/Nicholas Leong/Handout